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There’s a very good probability that the story of how first-time writer-director Christian Papierniak finagled the (rather impressive) cast for his feature debut is vastly more interesting than the (rather unimpressive) film itself. “Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town” stars the button-eyed, open-hearted Mackenzie Davis as a woman traveling from Los Angeles’ Westside to its… middle, encountering zany strangers and indignant loved ones along the way, played by the likes of Lakeith Stanfield, Carrie Coon, Alia Shawkat, Annie Potts, and Haley Joel Osment.
If the presences of Potts and Osment doesn’t give you a ’90s flashback, the premise of “Izzy” certainly will. The hungover titular character has five or so hours to travel from Venice to Los Feliz, the location of her ex-boyfriend’s (Alex Russell) engagement party. (Whatever authenticity Papierniak might have been reaching for by name-checking so many LA neighborhoods throughout the protagonist’s journey is undone by the overwhelming whiteness of the film.)
Slighter than a blade of grass, “Izzy” presents us with a pseudo-novel conceit through which we learn who the woman we’re accompanying on her haphazard jaunt is, and why she doesn’t just ride the bus or call a Lyft like the rest of us would.
The self-serious meditations on fate and responsibility — as well as the uneven but ever-charged flare-ups between Izzy and whoever she’s talking to — recall exercises in an acting class. By the end, we understand her motivations and recent biography, but precious little about who she is as a person.
Davis strives mightily to make the material at hand more than intermittently engaging, but she fights a losing battle against an amateurish, underwritten script. Two exceptions do emerge. Izzy wears a soiled caterer’s uniform throughout the day, and her dire financial straits — and the ingenuity they inspire — lead her to the home of a software engineer (Osment) who had once hired her via Task Rabbit to write a letter initiating divorce.
Pushing her way in, Izzy convinces Walt to give her an odd job then and there — which happens to involve the pink-suited stranger (Shawkat) asleep on a chair in the middle of his living room. The off-book gig is whimsical and romantic, and yet movingly evocative of economic desperation.
Unsurprisingly, Coon deftly pulls off the film’s emotional heavy-lifting as Izzy’s more stable sister Virginia, who left behind their sororal artistic collaboration to forge a new life. Coon arrives like a UFO: eerily calm, intriguingly unknowable yet instantly recognizable, commanding everyone’s attention within a 10-mile radius. As the only person to call Izzy out and actually be heard, Virginia’s scenes herald a climactic emotional reckoning that never actually takes place.
Potts nearly manages to achieve her own show-stopping moment as the rare kind soul that Izzy stumbles across, but her scenes, as well as Stanfield’s, ultimately just blend into the yammer-a-thon. The visual flourishes aren’t much better: the pink-hued dream sequences involving a mysterious woman (Dolly Wells) and a younger version of Izzy (Ryan Simpkins) should be returned to the first year of film school whence it came.
Sometimes the journey is the destination, and sometimes the journey is the background to wondering for 85 minutes straight why such a talented group of actors are slumming in banality.